Rabbits are cute and lovable animals. They are herbivores, eating only grass, leafy plants, vegetables, and fruits. Rabbits are not carnivores. Whereas, one of the horrors that have been witnessed is the sight of a mother rabbit eating its babies.
As a new rabbit parent, you may find this scary and must want to know why it occurs. Or maybe you’re merely searching for facts in anticipation. You’re not in the wrong place. Here, you’ll understand why a rabbit will possibly eat its litter or newborns.
Why Do Rabbits Eat Their Babies?
There are different reasons why a rabbit may eat its babies but the most important thing is that a rabbit will never eat its babies on purpose. While the mother rabbit may be overcome by fear, stress, and other factors, it didn’t eat a baby because it craved it. Rabbits are not carnivores. A few reasons why a rabbit may eat its babies are listed below.
I. A New Mother
A rabbit that is below six months old and is new to the process of giving birth may eat its babies out of fear. The whole giving birth experience is new to them and due to confusion, they may gobble up the baby.
II. Fear of Competition
Rabbits happen to develop territorial behaviour in the presence of their babies. This occurs sometimes when they feel like the baby has come to take its position or claim its hutch. This behaviour could make the rabbit eat its baby.
III. Fear of Predators
Rabbits are prey animals and the presence of the babies could cause them to fear and think the babies would attract predators. Out of fear and panic, they may eat the babies.
IV. Weak or Dead Babies
There are cases where rabbits separate their litter and make them into two groups; the strong and the weak. When rabbits sense their baby rabbits may be weak and find it difficult to survive, they eat them. If the rabbit is born dead, they eat it.
V. Dietary Protein
The process of pregnancy is very stressful for every mothering rabbit. Giving birth in itself is also stressful and drains the strength of the rabbit. The lack of protein causes the rabbit to fear death and the baby is the closest source of protein that makes the rabbit eat it.
How Do You Stop Rabbits From Eating Their Babies?
After discovering the reasons a rabbit may eat its babies, it is also essential to know how you can stop them. Some ways to stop your rabbits from eating their babies are listed below.
I. The Age to Breed
Due to the anxiety and panic that may come with birthing babies, do not breed a rabbit that is less than six months old. A rabbit less than six months old will find it difficult to adjust to the drain that comes with raising the litter.
If the mother still eats the babies and avoids feeding them after birth, stop breeding the rabbit. – Most rabbits get used to the experience after the first time.
II. More Affection and Care
When your rabbit is pregnant, make sure to always show care and affection to the rabbit. Pet it, hand feed it, and lavish it with much love.
This will make it feel safer when it gives birth and stop the territorial behaviour. After birth, still, pay attention to your rabbit. This will also reduce the anxiety of the rabbit toward predators because of the safe feeling.
III. Watching Before, During, and After Birth
Do close monitoring of your pregnant rabbit. Watch it closely during all stages of birth. When you watch your rabbit, you can figure out its discomfort and help it feel safe.
When you watch the rabbit during birth, you can prevent or stop it from eating its babies due to anxiety or impulse. You can also stop it from eating a baby that seems to it like a placenta.
IV. Enough Protein
When the day to give birth draws near, it is important to increase the amount of protein available to your pregnant rabbit.
A rich source of protein that is advised is “alfalfa hay”. This way they can stay protein healthy and not gobble up their babies due to lack of nutrition.
Will a Mother Rabbit Reject Her Babies if you Touch Them?
Another horrific thing about rabbits buried in a myth is the weird fact that rabbits will reject their babies when the babies are touched by humans. Guess what? The myth is false.
The myth is developed on the premise that rabbits turn away from babies because it gives off the human scent and they don’t recognize their babies. Rabbits in contrast, if they have a close bond with the human that touches the rabbit, find the scent comforting and do not reject the baby rabbit.
On the other hand, even if a stranger touches the baby rabbit and if it doesn’t feed the rabbit at that time, this is due to fear of the strange presence and not that the rabbit has rejected the child. Mother rabbits recognize the scent of their babies underneath the unfamiliar human smell. She also recognizes the cries and appearance of her babies.
The only reason a person needs to be careful with handling baby rabbits is because of their fragile body and bones. If you want to carry the baby rabbit at all, carry it for a purpose such as weighing it.
Can Male Rabbits Stay With Babies?
While male rabbits may not eat baby rabbits, they cannot act as their fathers or take care of them in any manner. Male rabbits can’t produce milk to nurture them and can’t protect them. In some cases, male rabbits may pose territorial behaviour and attack the baby rabbits. Hence it is not proper for the baby rabbits to stay with the male.
It is often advised that the time the female rabbit is raising its litter is the best time to neuter the male rabbit. Once the female rabbit is due for birth, take the male rabbit away from its hutch or create a separate place for the female and coming babies.
A female rabbit can get pregnant again within twenty-four hours of giving birth. If the male rabbit remains in the same territory, it can impregnate the female rabbit again and in some cases, it could impregnate the female offspring once they mature.
Do not keep the baby rabbits with the male rabbits. Let them remain with the female, their mother.
Sometimes we shouldn’t let ourselves get scared by myths and horror stories. Rabbits might have eaten their babies in the past but if you take proper care and watch them cautiously, you might as well avoid the horror.
Do not let an expecting rabbit starve, lavish it with care and protect its environment from predators.
Don’t also forget that you can touch your baby rabbits, only make sure it is for a needful purpose to avoid hurting them. Their mother won’t reject them. Rabbits remain cute animals, fear could only grip them sometimes. Keep your rabbit free from fear. Lavish it with love continuously. Keep the babies safe.